Friday, August 26, 2011


Well, my friends, we are having our first typhoon experience.  Here, they call it a Baguio [pronounced BUG-YE-OO with the emphasis on the first syllable and a long 'o' sound at the end], not to be confused with Baguio which is the resort town to our east and the current 'home' of Elder Goodson [my sweet daughter-in-laws little brother who will be coming home in a week!].

The Church has a department whose main focus is weather around the world and how it will affect the different missions and in turn, the missionaries.  Yesterday, we got notice that our island will be affected by the typhoon that is building out to sea so we are has rained for two days and will probably continue to rain for the next 4 or 5, depending on the intensity of the storm and it's direction of travel.  We were in Cauayan last evening at the mission home as President Carlos put into action an evacuation plan-he had two young sister missionaries who were living in an area close to 'the river' and he pulled them out for fear of flooding.  They were to go to higher ground and because the first choice sister missionary apartment was housing a sick sister, they came to the mission home to stay until the storm is over.  We enjoyed their company for a game of Mexican Train dominoes before coming 'home' to Cabatuan.  I say home because on the way home last night, I was actually looking forward to coming home to OUR home and settling in for the night-it was the first time I had that 'home' feeling in this house.  A good sign...

While I was in Cauayan yesterday, Sister Carlos and I had some errands to run-Sanitary Bakery [that is it's name-they have good baked goods and our favorite bread], Sanitary Mart [the little grocery store that is owned by the same family as the bakery-let me tell you, it is far from 'sanitary' but is immaculate in comparison to some other stores],the post office, and the palenke [open air market] where 'finds' are common-if you see something here that you want, BUY IT because you may never see it again!  While we were out, I took some pictures of the field of umbrellas.  This is a tropical area and is often blessed with sudden cloudbursts so the people here all carry umbrellas to keep themselves dry but also use them in the extreme heat for instant shade.  I LOVE THE UMBRELLAS!!!  They parade down the street like a field of wildflowers and bring such great color and vibrancy to this wonderful landscape.

We also had our first experience with teaching this past week-the missionaries invited us to join them on Wednesday afternoon where we met two wonderful families.  Both live in the middle of rice fields and are farm laborers.  One thing that is so evident here is that the people are so humble and so happy!  They might have absolutely NOTHING but they want for nothing...  I thought you would like some pictures of them and the landscape so snapped a few.

Sister Ulep with Elders Naylor and Lucernos 
The Manocdoc Family
Even the street vendors have them...

This past week was also a red-letter day when the Carlos' and the Breeses came to our house for dessert and our first official game of Crud in our new home.  I kept the score sheet and it will be a fridge decor for the next two years!

One more highlight was our new pet!  I am seriously teasing but when we woke up Thursday morning, this little creature greeted us and if I had been the first to see it instead of Randy, I WOULD STILL BE RUNNING!!!

Hope you all are well and having a great life...we sure are!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Week one was FANTASTIC!!!

What a week!!  We arrived here in Cauayan after a good nights sleep on Wednesday morning [your Tuesday evening] to a fanfare of waves, pictures and lots of hugs!  The Carlos' and the Breese's along with the AP's greeted us at the 'airport' [and I use that word loosely].  Brenda and I had a good cry as we hugged after over a year of missing each other.  What a blessing this next two years will be for us both.

The AP's and the Breeses followed President and Sister Carlos' vehicle to the mission home where we unpacked, got a tour then settled down for a long 'chat'.  This home is beautiful and very comfortable.  Tomorrow or Tuesday we will move to Cabatuan to our new home where we have been unpacking and getting things settled.  Friday we went shopping and bought a refrigerator, stove, water dispenser [the type you sometimes see in office buildings in the US] and three more fans.  I unpacked boxes with the help of Brenda and Randy and have almost everything put away.  Yesterday we went to two baptisms in two far away areas and ended up at SaveMore in Ilagan where I bought the staples we will need to set up housekeeping.  They are all in 'our truck' [picture to follow next week] and will be taken to our home tomorrow and unloaded. One funny side note about the second baptism..there was no pianist there so I was asked to play the piano.  It was a Kawai [electric] like the one we used to have so I felt fairly comfortable trying it.  HOWEVER...I fought ants on the keyboard, wind blowing the music and as one brother was giving the talk on the Holy Ghost, I tried to adjust the hymnbook and accidently hit the 'fill in' key which brought immediate drums, bongo, and other percussion background beat music at FULL VOLUME...I threw up my hands in a panic, looking horrified at the audience and fumbled around until I found the OFF button!!!  I will probably never live that one down and will go down in mission history as one of the greatest debaukle's in the world pulled off my a senior missionary!  hahaha!!  BUT...the brother who was rattling on in Tagalog didn't miss a beat and never even acted like it bothered him one bit!  Such tolerance...

We absolutely LOVE our new area-we went to two Sacrament Meetings today, one at 9 and one at 10:30, both in the Roxas area.  We will be serving in a district that includes 5 different units, all branches.  President Carlos was asked to speak at both meetings and he, in turn, introduced us then called us to bear our testimonies.  The people are so wonderful and so accepting of us.  Yesterday as I walked through this grocery store, I gathered a following of about 8 or 9 little boys, ranging from 7-12 in age.  I felt like the Pied Piper...they were all staring at me and just mesmerized by my height, blue eyes and light hair.  I am taller than most of their fathers and that fascinated them.  I got the same reaction today-people will have to learn to trust and I certainly understand that.  Next Saturday morning, the combined 5 units are having a women's meeting where they want to learn about 'pasta' and have invited me to join them and teach 'Fettucini with Alfredo Sauce'...I must ask Cristin to email me her recipe!  It should be fun...

The heat here is more oppressing than I had ever imagined.  It took my breath away at first but I am certain, with time and patience, I will become accustomed to it.  One thing I have realized this week is as I live in the heat and humidity and don't use A/C, it will get easier and easier to cope.  It is the in and out of A/C that makes it hard.  Here, at the mission home, we have air in every room whereas in our home in Cabatuan, we will have A/C in the bedroom and that is all.  We also will get used to cold showers.  There is one hot water heater in the master bath but it doesn't work very well and the set-up in that bathroom for a shower is not great-we will just use another bathroom for our showers and because the ground is not cool, the water isn't cold but actually a refreshing cool.  I will probably be a two shower a day person, one in the morning to start the day and another at night before bed to cool off.

Gloria and Brenda like to walk early in the mornings so this past week, we have been walking for about 30 minutes at 5:30 am.  I plan to continue that after we move and will look forward to walking in my town and becoming acquainted with the little eccentricities of Cabatuan.  I like mornings and if I walk around 5:30 or so, it is still relatively cool...relatively being the operative word!  The humidity and tropical climate make the foliage here amazing!  I feel like I am living in the garden of Eden.  There are also many different foods, bugs, rodents, etc. and everywhere you go, you can hear roosters crowing!!  That will wake us up every morning...

President and Sister Carlos and Elder and Sister Breese

My first 'trycie' ride and what a ride it was!!

An electrician's nightmare!!

Tricie's all over the road inTuguegarao 

A family 'van' in Roxas

Cute little fella's waiting outside church for their families...

One thing is for sure...this will be the adventure of our lives!!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where do I begin???

Oh, to put into words and a few pictures the events that have sculpted our lives the past two weeks.  I know, I know...WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, CHERI??????  I will try my best to encapsulate our experiences into one readable blog post...

We arrived in Manila yesterday [Tuesday] afternoon at around noon, having left the larger part of our lives behind and with faith in the Lord, that He will care for those we love and adore for the next two years.  The farewells were very hard but we have confidence our friends and family will be cared for and protected as we serve.  The MTC was an amazing experience that is so difficult to describe.  Every day we were filled spiritually from so many wonderfully prepared young people.  It is so awesome to sit back and watch that campus buzz as thousands of young people have responded to the prophet's call to serve.  Wherever we walked, we heard tongues flying in hundreds of languages as this group of youth were preparing themselves to cover the earth and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The physical part was no less 'filling'...I think I put on 15 pounds just eating the amazing food and then sitting all day for two weeks to learn and practice.  I am really looking forward to getting to Cauayan later today, finish my body-clock thing and get to work!  My plan is to walk every morning for at least 45 minutes and I think my now-tight skirts will loosen up again!  haha!  Sister Carlos and Sister Breese have put in countless hours in our behalf the past few weeks readying our house [and I am bringing them a huge thank you hug as well as a few goodies] and the next few weeks I will put MY mark on it to turn it into our home.  We will have left many of the conveniences that we have always taken for granted behind [like the ability to drink tap water or shower with eyes and mouth opened] but will be SO grateful for the lovely and comfortable place they found for us.

How was the flight over, you ask?  Interesting is probably the most precise word to explain it.....we left SLC Sunday evening around 8 p.m., arriving at LAX around 9:30 p.m.  A four hour layover was followed by a 14 hour flight to Hong Kong.  The plane was huge but PACKED!!!  We were economy and needed to sit up all night-each seat had a tv built into the back of the seat ahead and we had earphones so watched some movies, ate some dinner and snacks [MORE WEIGHT CONTRIBUTION I AM SURE!!]  Each of us got some sleep but not the restful type that we really needed.  I was telling Randy when we arrived in Hong Kong that it is a little like labor...while you are in the middle of it, the best word to describe it is brutal.  It is painful, exhausting, never-ending, etc. BUT as soon as they open that door and we walked out into the most beautiful airport we had ever seen, we both looked back and said 'that wasn't so bad'...haha!   Hong Kong was amazing-we didn't get to leave the airport but were so impressed with the beauty and cleanliness of the entire area.

After a short 2 hour layover, we hopped on another flight to Manila.  This plane was larger and not crowded but when we finally walked off that plane, got our luggage, went through immigration and customs and walked outside, we were hit with the sights and smells of our new country.  It was SO hot and SO humid [and there I stood in a jacket and Randy in a sport coat] but I recognized it as our new home and just loved it immediately.  It took a few minutes to find our driver [and we had NO cell phones to call anyone to help-we will get mission phones sometime soon but we then realized how dependent we had become on technology]  Ferdie found us and we got into his car where my senses were tested as we attacked the driving Filipino's for the first time.  Luckily, I had been warned but could never have anticipated what I would see and experience.  After WWII, the United States left hundreds, maybe thousands of jeeps in the Philippines that the resourceful Filipino people took, refitted and turned them into 'Jeepneys', their main mode of affordable public transportation.  They pile as many people as they can into the vehicle and the lucky owner has a business!!  They also have large buses [the air-conditioned ones are most expensive to ride] and between these two modes of transportation, the city is a mass of exhaust and honking horns but it all seemed rather like a dance.  Nobody was mad or frustrated, nobody was raging, just moving like bugs on a sidewalk.  People were also walking in the street weaving in and out of the traffic as were motorcycles and scooters.  It was a hoot!

Randy and I had thought we would like to see the war memorial but with the time element, we only had time to do one thing so we chose the temple.  It was so worth it and definitely the right decision.  We followed that with a very disappointing dinner [he chose the restaurant] and when we realized the Italian Restaurant was not Olive Garden, our physical exhaustion took over.  We both picked at our dinners and decided we needed sleep so by 7:30, we were both sound asleep.  Our time zone puts us 12-15 hours ahead of you in the US depending on YOUR zone so it is now 4:30 a.m. here on Wednesday and 4:30 p.m. Tuesday on the east coast in the United States.  The Holiday Inn that we are staying in [on the 19th floor!] is connected to this huge indoor mall [where we ate dinner] that is 4 stories high-we could look down and see the people milling around through the center opening and were amazed at all the stores and IT WAS PACKED with shoppers, even in the evening.

By 11 or so this morning, we will have boarded yet another plane, flown another couple of hours and will be in Cauayan City, our new home.  Not sure what I am most excited about, unpacking our suitcases, unloading the boxes we shipped from Kathie and Bill's or just being ready to get on with this next phase of our lives.  For over a year, we have been planning, sorting, packing, storing, and preparing ourselves for this moment.  For the first time in our lives, we are homeless, living out of suitcases, stuff-less, and are more than ready to be done with it!!

Hong Kong


Coconut tree right in the middle of the traffic

Manila Temple-looks alot like Chicago and Dallas in design.

Temple fertile and green...gorgeous!
We love you all and hope you will follow our adventures as we now become residents of a country that is half way around the world, filled with great people who are loving, filled with an amazing light in their countenances and ready to accept us into their lives.  Here we go, Lord...WE ARE READY!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

And now, it begins...

Our crazy group!!
'Elder' David Keller, the young missionary who taught us in 1973.
August 1st was, without a doubt, one of the most awesome days of my life!  We arrived at the Missionary Training Center and probably looked like a deer in headlights most of the day but had such a great experience.  Before pontificating on that subject, I want to share a little about Sunday.  We had so many friends from the past,  [Vickie and Brent, Jeff and Judy, Kathy, Cleone and Lyle, Mardee and Rob, Heather and Bryan, Kathie and Don, Carolyn and Dennis, Annalee and Kirk, Kayleen, other special friends plus 19 of our 24 grandpeople and 4 of our 5 children] PLUS....the missionary who taught us the discussions in 1973 and his wife.  We haven't seen him since the night we were baptized and as he offered the blessing on the food at Cristin's house, I closed my eyes and could picture that young Elder Keller.  The memory is a great thing-too bad mine is almost shot!  Cristin and her 'significant other' worked so hard to host a wonderful backyard 'eaty thing' and luckily, the Lord smiled down and held off the rain until it was all over.  Such a great way to share our love with each of them.

Elder and Sister Shaner, Sister and Elder Stahlei

Elder Shaner, Sister Jordie Clayton, Sister Shaner
Today we had the unique opportunity to see Elder and Sister Stahlei and Sister Clayton, both friends of the past.  The Stahlei's are headed to the Southeastern Area where 'Dr' Elder Stahlei will serve as the area medical doctor.  They are also from Omaha and will serve for a year.  Sister Clayton moved in across the street from us with her family in the mid-90's as non-members.  We had the privilege of hosting their discussions in our home and she is headed to Argentina.  What a thrill to see her.  We also have run into Elder Spilker who grew up across the street from us in Kaysville and he is headed to Cambodia.  Such a thrill to see familiar faces.

Tonight we are hearing Gerald Lund present a devotional for us and we are patiently awaiting his arrival.

It begins...